Pedal Press Spring 2006





All articles welcome for inclusion in next issue of Pedal Press to be sent by email or disc to the Editor


Cycle Helmets and Public Health

To the Editor British Medical Journal
28th March 2006

Dear Sir,
I am writing in response to the article by Robinson in BMJ volume 332 (25th March), questioning the validity of public health measures to enforce cycle helmet wearing [1], and to the counterpoint by Hagel et al [2] in the same issue. Cycle helmets are designed to protect in the event of a fall from a bicycle. It follows that when riding in traffic, a helmet will protect against some injuries, but offers little protection in a full on collision with a fast moving motor vehicle. Indeed, Robinson notes that almost all significant injury results from collision with motor vehicles. All the more perplexing then to legislate for the wearing of inadequate protection rather than shifting focus to the root causes of the risk, which include speeding and drunkenness, as identified by Robinson [1].

Hagel et al cite New South Wales data showing bicycle related head injuries in children to be clearly declining in the years before the ban, with a 1.2% reduction in the first of 2 years before the law, and 1.6% in the second of two years after [2], though with no significance attached to these small differences it is difficult to draw useful conclusions. Interestingly, Robinson’s figure 2 seems to show a small increase in head injuries shortly after the introduction of the law, and an apparent reduction in pedestrian head injuries in the same period might reflect the confounding factors described [1]. Wardlaw has shown that more cyclists, with more presence on the roads, equates with less individual danger, yet notes that deaths of cyclists had increased since the introduction of helmets [3]. This seems consistent with Robinson’s figures of a 35.6% reduction in Melbourne cycling consequent on helmet legislation [1], with reduced ‘safety in numbers’ and clearly a massive impact on the culture of cycling. What is questioned by Hagel et al is the real importance of this reduction in cycling.

A search on bmj.com using keywords ‘cycling, heart disease’ identifies 63 publications, virtually all of which identify positive health benefits from cycling. It is the suggestion of doubt as to these health benefits, and the alleged lack of evidence for harm from decreased cycling, which are said to ‘crumble’ Robinson’s position. The plank of Hegel et al’s argument is that 'it seems unlikely that most leisure cyclists…are cycling for 45 minutes, 6 days a week’, though no supporting evidence is provided on this, or indeed on the proportion of bikers who are commuters or leisure cyclists (‘…not much is known about typical cycling habits…’) [2]. The distances and times described equate with an average, indeed easy, UK commute (20 minutes or 2.5 miles each way).

There is a low risk of injury through cycling [4], and indeed the danger on our roads does not come from bicycles.

At the same time the absolute health benefits of cycling can still clearly be championed [5], and there is a continuing dearth of reliable evidence in support of either overall helmet efficacy or compulsion [6]. It therefore seems that cycling for transport and leisure should be more strongly promoted, along with advice on the possible benefits of helmet wearing. Legislation should however be reserved for those high risk motoring practices that are actually responsible for cyclist head and other injuries, and this position should be strongly supported by the British Medical Association.

Yours sincerely, Derek A Gould FRCR, FRCP

Radiology Department, Royal Liverpool University Trust, Prescot Street, Liverpool L7 8XP, United Kingdom

dgould@liv.ac.uk

References
1. Robinson DL. Do enforced bicycle helmet laws improve public health? BMJ 2006;332:722-5.
2. Hagel B, Macpherson A, Rivara FP, Pless B. Arguments against helmet legislation are flawed. BMJ 2006;332:725-6.
3. Malcolm J Wardlaw. Three lessons for a better cycling future. BMJ 2000;321:1582-1585.
4. Jacobson GA, Blizzard L, Dwyer T. Austr NZ J Public Health 1998 Jun;22(4):451-5.
5. Mayer Hillman. Cycling offers important health benefits and should be encouraged. BMJ 1997; 315: 490.
6. Bicycle helmet research foundation website: http://www.cyclehelmets.org/ (accessed 28th March 2006).

Derek Gould

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The Fragile Cyclist - Poaching the Pavement

Sometime ago I wrote about my trip to work along the Mersey riverbank, when I was full of the joy of Spring and my ride was pleasant and easy. But now I feel cocooned in Winter and the riverside path is interrupted by building work and construction. And I am reminded why I gave myself the name at the head of this article, for I have been feeling fragile indeed.

The city planners did not plan sensible cycle diversions during the works which have disrupted both of my potential routes to work. Whichever route I use, I end up in seriously major traffic, made even worse by the severe congestion which is itself exacerbated by the construction. I could rant incessantly about the lack of foresight of our council leaders (and there are few worse councils) but if I do that I shall only lose my rag, and others are likely to express my view better than I can. So I shall write about something controversial but pleasant, a discovery I have made which is contrary to my own strongly-held beliefs.

I have been forced to ride on the pavement. I dislike pavement cyclists because they give me a bad name and make it harder for me to convince the unconverted of the good and useful contribution cyclists make. So pedalling down the path was something I felt apologetic about and indeed, to begin with, I apologised to every pedestrian I passed. But after a few days, when I found myself wanting to use the same bit of ground a rather large man also wanted to use, I was shocked to hear him apologise to me. I apologised too, then he said something like “no, I should apologise”, and I said “no it’s me in the wrong, I’m sorry” and it went back and forth for a short time, all in good humour. I was in the wrong, of course, but perhaps he realised why I was there. And a half dozen times since then, a similar thing has happened. Not one pedestrian has been rude to me, which is more than I can say for when I’ve been using the riverpath.

So my conclusion is this. Whilst the city planners disrupt my cycle route, evidently wishing I would die on the highway, I shall carefully share the pavement with pedestrians in one or two places. And to any pedestrians who are reading this feeling aggrieved I apologise most sincerely, and I promise that I shall get back onto the road just as soon as it’s safe for me to do so.

Maxine Cain

4th December 2005

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Muesli Eater writes from Liverpool:

Paintin’ & Decoratin’ News

The painters & decorators referred to in the last issue of Pedal Press were returned to their Council duties at Christmas - Not Guilty m’lud.

In the Money (again)

The missing Grosvenor millions (two to be exact) have now turned up. They are not specifically for cycling. They are mostly for “highway” works which in some quarters means “not on cycling if we can possibly avoid it”.

Curiously enough, Grosvenor then enquired what cycling schemes money would be spent on. These projects are actually listed in their own evidence to the public inquiry for the Paradise St Development ….

Dental news

The City’s officers are mounting a fairly systematic attack on the Councils’ proposed City Centre Cycle Route Network.
The Big Dig & City Centre Movement “Strategy” are aiming to render Liverpool City Centre a No Go Area for cycling.
This is done by failing to implement key elements of the network, and by dumping pay and display parking on cycle routes.
As a general rule City Centre schemes only take cycling into account when MCC object, and even then it’s like drawing back teeth to get a result.

The Strand

MCC has formally objected to a scheme for altering traffic arrangements on The Strand (the big road in front of Pier Head). The scheme completely ignored the Councils’ Cycling Strategy for the area (as usual).

At a hearing of the Traffic & Highways Representations Committee, Councillors Millea, Antrobus & Marbrow backed our request for a Cycle Audit & proper consideration of how to get cyclists across The Strand. (This has now been ratified in the cyclists favour. Ed)

New Cycle Route.

Cyclists (particularly Sqwirrals) should start using the spanking new route built by the City on Tithebarn St & Chapel St on the North side of the City Centre.

This allows two-way cycling all the way between Superlamb Banana at the Vauxhall Rd/Hatton Garden junction and The Strand (by St Nicks’ church), using a bus / taxi/cycle lane on Chapel St.

We need as many cyclists as possible using this facility in order to “occupy” the space, also to give us some experience of what people do when they get to The Strand. MCC is currently immersed in discussions with the City over how cyclists are expected to cross the Strand to & from Pier Head.

Also, at the junction by Superlambbanana (now yellow again!), you will find an arrangement which enables you to ride “contraflow” into Hatton Garden. This resulted from one of those tedious objections by MCC. You will then have to get off. The contraflow is supposed to run all the way down to Dale St, but there is a building site in the way at present, so the lane can’t be installed yet.

Potholer’s corner

Insomniacs may wish to peruse “Highway Risk & Liability Claims – A practical Guide” by the Department for Transport. It includes the following gem attributed to a Surveyor to the Board of Agriculture, in a description of the road to Wigan:

“I know in the whole range of language no terms sufficiently expressive to describe this infernal road. Let me most seriously caution all travellers who may accidentally propose to travel this terrible country to avoid it as they would the devil”.

Richard Hebden

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Twenty's Plenty!

Transport 2000 has launched a new campaign calling on Government to make it easier for 20mph speed limits to be designated on roads where people live, shop, work and play.

Road crashes are the leading cause of mortality in children, and child pedestrians are most at risk from traffic, but little action has so far been taken to reduce traffic speed in urban areas. Lowering the speed limit has many benefits, including making streets safer, reducing road casualties, encouraging people to walk and cycle, reducing social exclusion, and improving traffic flow. Additionally, a report by the Health Development Agency has shown that children's deaths and injuries would fall by 67 per cent if 20mph were the speed limit on residential roads.

At present, Government regulations make introducing 20mph speed limits a long and expensive process. 20's Plenty! calls on Government to change the rules to make it easier for local authorities to designate streets as 20mph zones, and presents an opportunity to influence the Road Safety Bill as it passes through Parliament. Proposed amendments include:

T2000's Linda Beard explains, "20's Plenty! is about saving lives, preventing injuries and reducing the fear of road danger, but it's also about improving our quality of life. People all over the country have contacted us to say they want a 20mph limit near their homes, so this is the opportunity for them to take direct action."

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Life on the edge…

Life is what you make of it – although others may try and mould you somewhat… I was chatting to a colleague about the joys of cycling to work, especially along the Loop Line cycle track, lovingly cared for by TPT/Sustrans and the band of paid and voluntary rangers, and extolling the virtues, the time and money to be saved by using pedal power instead of the infernal combustion engine. I thought it was no more than a casual conversation when a few weeks later I was asked where could a reasonable cycle be bought for the projected daily commute. Hallelujah – a convert to the flock!

Duly equipped and with my advice ringing in his ears, the trial journey from deepest St Helens to Alder Hey was made on a quiet Sunday afternoon to test the water – 51 minutes – not too bad compared with 30 minutes in the car. Once the regular route and cunning shortcuts were decided upon, the time came down to the low 40s – not quite as fast as the car – but gaining! The other factor of course was that the level of fitness was increasing – a double benefit, which coupled with the bonus in the Green Equation, made for a very satisfying result.

Even in January the weather was not too terrible – a brisk ride along the A57 certainly brought a reassuring glow to parts the circulation did not normally reach… suitable waterproofs kept the ‘gentle rain that falleth from the heavens above’ off the toiling rider – even if passing vehicles were less considerate. The cycle rack thoughtfully provided by Alder Hey was right by the front door – so not even a walk from the shed was necessary but just stride through the doors with a righteous glow…

Of course there was a down side to all this – a tendon complained that it was not used to being so harshly treated but even it saw the light of reason after a little R & R, courtesy of the family car. More seriously, the complete lack of road sense and awareness by other motorists was a little alarming. A car driver pulled out in front the cyclist when he was already on a roundabout and he had to suddenly stop – no damage so far… A taxi driver – are they not the salt of the earth…? – suddenly turned into the main road directly in front of our intrepid cyclist, even though he had made eye contact with the driver. Maybe the taxi driver did not realise the speed which our gallant rider, after some weeks of cycling, had produced from his cranks. Again, no damage done – and confidence gained.

After a month or so the cycle ride was being anticipated with a sense of fun, challenge and real achievement – and now Alder Hey has started to charge all motorists on-site for the privilege of being in the ‘broken window / stolen radio lottery’, a further bonus to being self-propelled.

The motto of this tale – never forget that walls have ears – and always be alive to the opportunity to promote the most entertaining way to travel around our city – in the company of the most considerate drivers in the world... At least the cyclists will always give you a wave!

Roger Thornington

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Sefton Section

There is no news from these areas in this edition. If you have any news for the next edition please send it to PedalPress

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Wirral Group News

The Wirral Way upgrade from Thurstaston Visitor Centre to West Kirby is now under way. The scheme will be separated into three sections: tree felling/clearance, signing and surfacing. The initial phase is due to be completed before the bird-breeding season in March. The main path will be widened and resurfaced to make it easier for cyclists and walkers of all levels of mobility to use. The horse ride and the footpath will be switched back to their original positions to reduce steep gradients, and the bridleway will no longer double as a cycleway.

The old railway line on the Wirral Way, which leads to Wirral Country Park and Thurstaston Visitor Centre, attracts more than 250,000 visitors every year, so these improvements will benefit both local residents and visitors to the Wirral by providing an opportunity for children and other less experienced cyclists to use their bicycles in a traffic free environment.

This is the first major resurfacing work to be carried out along the Wirral Way since the park was opened in 1973. There are also plans to make it easier for cyclists to get onto the Wirral Way from Meols Drive, West Kirby, and Station Road, Thurstaston.
Hoylake Park and Ride is under construction, providing additional car parking, but no extra cycle parking, however, a new cycleway from the station to West Kirby has been constructed.

Further round the coast the restriction on cycling between Meols Parade and route 56 is being lifted by the drafting of a new byelaw.

Cathy McNulty, our Cycling Officer has developed a maintenance schedule for cycle routes that are owned by Highways and Leisure and will be developing an agreed maintenance regime for the future. Route 56 in particular around Bidston has benefited from recent maintenance. Another new initiative by Cathy is the production of two postcard-sized handouts to be available from libraries and cycle shops. These offer brief advice to both cyclists and motorists and give an opportunity to let the Cycling Officer know where further cycle parking is needed.

The Highways Department has been relocated to The Cheshire Lines building, near Hamilton Square station in Birkenhead.

Steve Corlett has recently been appointed to the post of Road Safety Officer Cycling. He has responsibility for cycle training, mainly for schools.

We were pleased to welcome Patrick Cleary, the new CTC Right to Ride representative for the Wirral area of Merseyside, to our February meeting. He can be contacted by e-mail at Cleary@onetel.com

Planning News – John Cranny has already submitted 23 objection to planning applications that show inadequate cycle parking. In 2004 he checked 186 plans, and submitted objections to 168 of these. Of the 111 schemes passed during the year 83 were with cycle parking, so John’s efforts are bearing fruit.

The next meeting of the Wirral Group is on Monday 6th June at 18 Shrewsbury Road, telephone Carol Fitzpatrick on 653 3887 if you would like to join us.

The new Pedal Press correspondent for the Wirral group of the MCC is Chris Beazer who can be contacted at chris.beazer@talktalk.net

Sonia Oldershaw

Special thanks to Sonia Oldershaw who had been performing this duty until April.

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St Helens and Knowsley News

There is no news from these areas in this edition. If you have any news for the next edition please send it to PedalPress

What Does the English Regions Cycling Development Team have to say about the performance of St Helens Council?
Find out at http://www.nationalcyclingstrategy.org.uk/assets/go_2004/North_West/sthelens.pdf

What Does the English Regions Cycling Development Team have to say about the performance of Knowsley Council?
Find out at http://www.nationalcyclingstrategy.org.uk/assets/go_2004/North_West/knowsley.pdf

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Tax is taxing, but…

The latest Budget contained few surprises for cyclists. The excellent Cycle to Work tax-free bike buying scheme survived despite a similar scheme for home computers being axed. Cycle to Work is administered by an increasing number of companies, including Booost. See http://www.booost.uk.com/employees/background/

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Electric Bike

The Campaign’s electric bike has been on the move again. It's now in Hunts Cross giving a little assistance over the hills to work at the University
It’s great fun and well suited to anyone who may not be able to ride as far as they would like. It’s available to be borrowed for short periods by any member or, at a push, elderly relatives of members. To contact Neil phone 0151 727 4583

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All articles welcome for inclusion in next issue of Pedal Press to be sent by email or disc to the Editor

© Merseyside Cycling Campaign 2006